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Honda still not quick enough to win, says Button

Written by: Staff

NUERBURGRING, Germany, May 4 (Reuters) Briton Jenson Button expects Honda team mate Rubens Barrichello to be a stronger rival in Sunday's European Grand Prix after overcoming early-season problems.

However he does not see either of them standing on top of the podium after the fifth round of the season at the Nuerburgring.

''I'm not going to say we're going to win the race, I don't think we are quick enough to do so. I think the Renault is going to be very strong here,'' he told reporters at the circuit today.

Button, still without a win in 104 starts, has scored 13 of Honda's disappointing haul of 15 points so far this season, with Barrichello taking time to adjust to his new car after six years with Ferrari.

The Brazilian, winner at the Nuerburgring with Ferrari in 2002, has been outqualified in every race so far.

While Button has started consistently in the top three, Barrichello qualified 12th and 17th in the second and third rounds in Malaysia and Australia respectively.

''He's found it tough this season,'' said Button. ''It has surprised me that he has found it so tough, but people act ifferently when they come to a new team.

''He's definitely there now, he is on the pace, he's been working very hard with the team to improve in areas where he needs to improve and in Imola he was quick in practice and qualifying.

''He's definitely solved his issues that he had before.'' Honda arrive at the Nuerburgring with a whiff of crisis in the air -- the front cover of Britain's Autosport magazine carried the headline ''Button's Honda crisis - is there a cure?'' on Thursday.

That perception was fuelled by farcical scenes at the San Marino Grand Prix where Button was given the all-clear to leave a pitstop while the fuel hose was still attached to his car. He finished seventh.

Renault's world champion Fernando Alonso is now 15 points clear of the field, and 23 ahead of Button, while his team also lead the constructors' standings.

The Briton, who gave a 'motivational' talk to the Honda factory last week after returning from Imola, played down crisis talk however.

''It's not right, definitely not,'' he said.

''We have done some very good set-up work in Silverstone which is going to help the long race pace so we're positive that we can do a good job.

''Over the winter we thought we had a very good chance of challenging for wins at every race we went to and we were very truthful, we didn't lie or try and talk it down and then suddenly have great results.

''We've had a few issues this year but we haven't been quick enough really to challenge the Renaults and that is an issue that isn't going to suddenly change overnight.'' REUTERS PM PC2252

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